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children in snowy forest

Anna Murray Douglass Academy #12

February Break Nature Discovery Camp 2022

Young people laughing as they play in the park is what winter break should sound like. During the 2022 February break last week Anna Murray Douglass Academy School #12, The Center for Youth, Earthworks, and Rochester Ecology Partners came together to make that possible for over fifty students grades K-8 with a four day nature discovery camp. The camp was conceived with the idea that young people, now more than ever, need opportunities to fill their lungs with fresh air, enjoy time with their peers, and have experiences that expand their view of the world. The campus of Anna Murray Douglass Academy #12 is the perfect place to make that happen with Highland Park in the backyard.

For four days students rotated through a series of activities designed to provide them with a meaningful and fun learning experience. While indoors they engaged in science activities that connected to their work outdoors. Exploring how quickly ice melts in the presence of salt or insulated with a “jacket” complemented discussions about how to stay warm outside. Studies of animal tracks and diagrams of how animals might travel through their habitat looking for food and places to sleep aligned with time outside tracking the deer and squirrels that live in Highland Park. There was also time for warming fingers up as participants practiced their fine motor skills doing creative arts and crafts.

The main idea, however, was to get them outside. There are lots of reasons to do this. Learning outdoors is COVID safe. It is good for the spirit, mind, and body. It is a great way to build relationships. Not to mention the unique learning opportunity it presents. Building shelters among the trees, exploring the park’s hills and valleys, creating a nature collection, and warming up by the fire while you munch on popcorn meet a variety of learning goals in ways that are holistic and integrated.

The response from the students was overwhelmingly positive. A few of the youngest students said they would come back again when asked for their reflections. Avri felt that it was really fun because she “got to hang out with new people, make new friends, go sledding, and play outside a lot”. Even the older students who in the first five minutes shared they were bored relented throughout the week as they clamored to share their experiences looking under microscopes, discovering the sunken garden, or trekking to the conservatory. There is plenty of evidence that the partnership was successful and more experiences like this are needed.

Nature Based Learning with Schools

Nature based learning leads to improved social and emotional wellness, community development, and academic outcomes. Rochester Ecology Partners works with schools to design and facilitate experiences that get everyone engaged with nature.

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